Very rarely are Republican District Conventions much fun. It’s always nice to see old friends and talk politics, but this isn’t exactly how I really want to spend a Saturday in the spring. At least the first few rounds of the NFL Draft take place before the convention this year, so I will not be missing much.
This year, the district conventions are split up on two separate weekends. The 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Districts will hold their conventions this weekend, while the 1st and 4th Districts convene on May 1st. I like splitting them up. It makes it easier for our candidates to attend and spend more time meeting with party activists. What I don’t understand is how they decided to split them up.
While there is no contested congressional primary in the 5th District, it is critical for statewide candidates to do well there. Obviously, it is important to the gubernatorial candidates, but doing well in western Iowa could make-or-break a Secretary of State and State Treasurer primary campaign.
The 5th District is holding its convention in Sioux Rapids, which is a four-hour drive to the 3rd District convention in Grinnell, which is another two hours away from the 2nd District convention in Fairfield. I’m sure the gubernatorial candidates will fly, but that’s a long haul and difficult to do if you are Matt Schultz, George Eichhorn, Dave Jamison, or Jim Heavens and are limited to traveling by car.
The 2nd, 3rd, and 5th District are also the most important to statewide candidates with contested primaries, since the 5th is solidly Republican, and the 2nd and 3rd have hotly contested congressional primaries, which should increase turnout in those areas.
Besides approving the platform and listening to candidates, the other important thing that will take place is the election of three members to the State Central Committee. Now, I have never understood why Iowa Republicans make changes to the governing board of the Republican Party just months before an election, but that is how the system is set up, and should be changed.
A simple fix would be to expand the number of representatives from three to four in each district and make them four-year terms and instead of two-year terms. After redistricting, that would add one new member to the state central committee, but they could then do alternating terms to fix the turnover problem that the current system creates. That’s probably a subject for it own article on a different day.
The State Central Committee elections are very important, especially in advance of the 2012 Iowa caucuses. While it’s important to make sure the people who are elected to serve on the committee believe in Republican principles, we also need to make sure that we elect people who can help lead a Republican resurgence.
The 2010 elections are of paramount importance to Republicans in the state, but the people they elect on the next two Saturday’s will impact 2012 more than 2010. After the 2010 election, the first item of business for the central committee will be selecting a new chair to lead the party. If a Republican occupies the Governor’s office, then the decision will somewhat be taken out of their hands, since the Governor should be able to have a chairman that will work with him.
The most pressing issue for the Iowa GOP in 2011 will be pulling off a presidential straw poll in less than eight months. As the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa in 2007, I can tell you that I worked day and night to ensure that we had a successful straw poll.
Pulling off an event of that magnitude is no easy feat, and just because you say that you are holding a big event doesn’t mean that it will be successful or profitable. One of the top concerns for the new committee should be: how do we have a successful straw poll, and what changes, if any, need to be made?
Compounding matters is that a few months after the straw poll, the Iowa GOP will have to organize a successful caucus. Again, this is something that is easier said than done. Making sure each county organization is ready for the caucuses is just part of the work that needs to get done. RPI will also have to figure out how to count the votes, ensure an accurate count, and provide the media with real-time results.
The central committee members that are elected need to more committed to ensuring a fair and successful 2012 straw poll and caucus than advancing any particular presidential candidate. If the central committee members are diligent and work to ensure a successful straw poll and caucus, the party will be in a good position going into the election year in 2012.
If you are running for the state central committee here are some things that you need to know:
1. You are not an elected official.
2. This is not a paid position.
3. You are a representative for the people in your district.
4. You work alongside the staff of the party. It’s a partnership.
5. You’re job is to put the party in front of any candidate. If you argue with this point, you should not be running.
6. Ask not what the party can do for you. Ask what you can do for your party.
7. If you are a grassroots organizer, there is a place for you.
8. If you have fundraising or communication skills, there is a place for you.
9. If you are good with technology, there is a place for you.
10. If you can bring opposing sides of the party together, there is a place for you.
11. If you are more concerned about the issues of the party than the success of the party, run for the platform committee.
12. Be committed to complete your entire two-year term.
13. Be committed to work hard. There is a lot that needs accomplished. We need all hands on deck.
14. Make it fun. This shouldn’t feel like work.
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